Maa and Me

2nd January, 1997
“No more eat. Srin no eat.” My three year old framed the sentence while struggling to climb up my lap. Eating is one of the few things that never interested her. Looking at it now, I understand how difficult it would have been for my mother to feed me when I was her age. 
Breaking away from my thoughts, I find her blissfully drifting off to sleep while resting her head on my chest. A faint smile plays on my lips. It is amazing how one look at her can magically ease out all my stress and exhaustion from work. 
“Adoption doesn’t let you have that bond, you know. Because you’re always gonna know that you didn’t give birth to her. Besides, you know it’s not the right choice.” I recall one of my “well-wishers” words in a faint whisper. “Bullshit” I think to myself. Srinandita is my daughter and she will always be my daughter. Pressing a kiss to my daughter’s forehead, I carried her to the bedroom.

15th July, 1999
Today is Srin’s first day at school. The little evil that she is.. just won’t let me brush her hair. After a lot of cajoling, I finally managed to tie her soft curls into a ponytail.
Srin’s really excited about school, though. The prospect of meeting so many people her age has really interested her. However, I’m a little worried. She is so tiny for school. But, I guess that’s how every mother feels.

18th July, 1999
I told Srin that she’s adopted. As hard as it was for me, I just hoped she would not distance herself from me. All that she said after listenting to me was “But, you’re still my Maa.” and went back to playing. 
I never really understood how could people smile and cry at the same time, but that night, I guess I finally did understand.

14th November, 2005
Srin is having a fancy dress competition at school and she’s adamant to play the role of a “Bangali bou”. My mother helped her get ready for the competition. “Dekh ki mishti dekhacche tor meye ke, Sri” (Look how beautiful your daughter is looking in saree, Sri) my mother had said. 
That night, during dinner, Srin asked me if she has a father. I was slightly taken aback by the question but I have been expecting it for sometime now. I told her that I was both her mother and father.

30th May, 2010
Srin graduated out of school today. She has made us all proud with her results. She is now looking forward to college in Mumbai. I’m happy for her too but I think I’m having the same thoughts that I had in the first day of her school. She is so young. How is my daughter going to manage it all on her own? But yet again, she has to learn to be on her own.

28th July, 2010
Someone’s head on my lap broke my snooze.. I looked down to find Srin resting her head on my lap. Slowly running my fingers through her hair, I asked her why she was up so late? Afterall, we had a flight to Mumbai tomorrow morning and it is essential for her to sleep now. Srin shifts her head a bit and quotes Rabindranath “Since you awaken a cry in our hearts, what harm if you stop a moment in answer to it? Let us talk a little.” 
A smile appears on my lips.. “Been reading The Red Oleander again?” I ask her. We both shared the same love for the play. 
“Maa, is it really hard to be a single mother? Did people not oppose you when you decided to adopt me without marrying?” she asked me with concern in her tone. 
“No, it isn’t. I have loved every moment with you. I had never been this happy before you came into my life. People did oppose. You see, honey.. in our society, it’s not important if you want a child or not.. you can throw your child in a bin and people are going to gossip about the abandoned infant in a bin and then forget about it. But, on the other hand, if you really want to be a mother without getting married… If you want to pick the child from the bin and raise him/her as your own, the society is going to strongly oppose you. Because, in their eyes, to have maternal love towards a child you must be married to a man.” I said.
“But that’s absurd, Maa.”
“So, it is. But, maybe things will change someday for good.”
“Hope against hope, Maa. Can I sleep with you tonight?” She asked me while getting up on her feet.
“Yes, ofcourse. But I’m not lowering the temperature below 20 degrees. You already have a cough.” 
I think I heard her groan while making her way to the bed. 
I smiled to myself. My little girl has really grown up. I had refused to acknowledge the fact that she was not a little girl anymore because it broke my heart to realize that she grew up this fast. Oh, what wouldn’t I give to see my little Srin running around in the house with squeaky shoes.

_____

20 years later
Srinandita and her husband chased behind her twins to put another morsel into their mouth. While putting them to sleep later that day, her thoughts wandered back to her mother again. She wondered what wouldn’t she give to rest her head on her mother’s lap again.